God, Government, and the Bible

A vital principle of Bible study is to take everything it says into consideration on any particular subject. Often one passage serves to qualify another. Together, they give a more complete picture of God’s will in the matter.

For example, Christians are taught to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

No exceptions?

But what if a specific law of the land is in conflict with God’s word?

The Bible is clear on this: God’s word always has the last word.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to worship the idol he had set up, they were obeying God’s higher command to have no other gods before Him (Daniel 3).

When Daniel kept praying when it became illegal to do so, God was pleased with his courageous faithfulness (Daniel 6).

When the highest court in Israel, the Sanhedrin, ordered the apostles in no uncertain terms to stop preaching Christ, Peter spoke for all of them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

And so . . . .

While God has ordained government, He has not ordained any specific form of government for our day.

But whatever the form of government, God requires that it must not exceed the authority He has given it to maintain order in society.

God never gave rulers carte blanche authority to do as they please.

God detests bribery, corruption, oppression, injustice, or any other abuse of power that hurts the governed.

And so should we.

And another thing . . . .

In addition to the Christian’s responsibility to obey laws that do not violate God’s will and also to pay taxes, we have this from Paul:

“. . . I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior . . .” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How Would You Answer?

Yesterday a friend asked how I would respond if someone said he did not believe that the Bible is inspired.

This is what I told him:

If the person is open to the truth, I would first prove that Jesus rose from the dead.

“Nothing is more crucial in the field of Christian evidences than the question of the divinity of Christ. Nothing is more crucial in establishing the divinity of Christ than His resurrection from the dead” (Batsell Barrett Baxter, I Believe Because . . ., p. 223).

“If our Lord said frequently . . . that after He went up to Jerusalem He would be put to death, but on the third day He would rise again from the grave, and this prediction came to pass, then . . . everything else our Lord ever said must also be true” (Wilbur M. Smith, Therefore, Stand, p. 419).

His resurrection validates all He claimed to be. It also validates all He said.

Jesus taught that the Scriptures are indeed God’s word and therefore authoritative, including the message of the apostles (Matthew 4:1-11; 10:1-4, 18-20; 15:3-9; John 10:35; 14-25-26; 16:12-23; 17:17).

H. C. G. Moule said it well: “Jesus Christ absolutely trusted the Bible, and though there are in it things inexplicable and intricate that have puzzled me much, I am going to trust the Book, not in a blind sense, but reverently, because of him” (quoted in Handley Carr Glynn Moule, Bishop of Durham: A Biography by J. B. Harford and F. C. MacDonald, p. 138).

It’s only logical.

Everything hinges on His resurrection.

If He did not rise, then we can dismiss Him as a deluded religious fanatic at best, or at worst a deliberate fraud.

In either case, we could not say, as so many do, that He was a good man or a great teacher, but not the Son of God.

But if He did rise, then our only logical recourse is to admit He truly is God’s Son (Romans 1:4).

And then take the next step: submitting to Him as our Savior and Lord.

It only makes sense.

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One Man’s Story

A  Christian who had done mission work in South America told me about a man there who picked up a leaflet from the church and liked what he read. He requested a Bible correspondence course, and after completing it asked for someone to visit him.

So the missionary made contact, and during the two hours they studied the Bible together, he would start to quote a verse and the man would finish it. This happened over and over. To say the least, the missionary was amazed.

The man told him he believed everything those passages taught. When asked if he had been immersed for the forgiveness of his sins, he said he had. He then told his story.

Dissatisfied with his religion, he began studying the Bible in earnest—all by himself. As a result he realized his christening as an infant was not scriptural baptism and that his church was not the church of the New Testament.

He approached a religious group that practiced immersion and asked to be baptized, which he was. He was then encouraged to consider himself a member of their group.

“No,” he said, “I am just a Christian.” He did not wish to be aligned with a denomination but yearned instead to be in fellowship with others like himself who were trying to go by the Bible only.

Because his family and friends thought he was crazy, he concluded he must be the only Christian in the world since no one else he knew shared his understanding.

When he finally found the church associated with the missionary, he was thrilled and began worshiping with them.

The missionary told me that as a result of this and other experiences, his own faith was strengthened in the validity of the plea to go back to the Bible and be Christians only.

He and his brethren had always taught that if all that people have is a Bible, and if they study it and do what it says, then they will be Christians only.

The truth-seeker he met was proof of this. He had studied the New Testament and had come to the same conclusions as those who believed in going by the Bible only.

The Restoration Plea is valid!

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A Unified Whole

Scripture cross-referencing

It’s fascinating the way one passage in the Bible refers to another. For example, God encouraged Joshua, Moses’ successor, to give attention to what Moses had written (Joshua 1:7-8).

Centuries later, King Josiah listened as Moses’ writings were read (2 Chronicles 34:14ff.). And Daniel consulted the book of Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2).

In response to Satan’s temptations Jesus cited three passages from Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:1-11). In visiting His hometown synagogue Jesus took the scroll and read from Isaiah where His ministry was prophesied by Isaiah some seven centuries before (Luke 4:16-21; see Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).

As an Ethiopian court official was returning home from Jerusalem, he was reading from Isaiah 53. God sent Philip the evangelist to meet up with him, “and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:26-35).

The Gospel of Matthew cites passage after passage from the Old Testament, as do Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews.

What’s especially interesting is that we also find references in the New Testament to other parts of the New Testament. Peter refers to the letters of Paul as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul is apparently quoting from both the Old Testament and a book in the New Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4; Matthew 10:10 or Luke 10:7) and refers to both as Scripture.

So what’s the point?

Why all this cross-referencing? God’s word, written over many centuries, is a mosaic. Each part contributes to the Big Picture. In His sovereign wisdom God was directing the whole process of revealing and preserving His word for us.

The Holy Spirit empowered the forty or so authors of the Bible to write what God intended (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore what we have is a unified whole and is God’s inspired word to us today.

If the Bible is simply a collection of human documents, then how can all this remarkable interconnectedness be explained?

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Straight Ahead

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Whoever had the idea of painting stripes down the middle and along the sides of the road did a tremendous service to travelers! The stripes help us avoid veering left into oncoming traffic or drifting to the right and going off the road.

If we see the value of definite boundaries on the road, and if football cannot be played without specific sidelines and yardlines, are there established boundaries for life?

Guidelines for Israel

As Joshua faced the weighty task of leading Israel after the death of Moses, God told him, “. . . be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).

Years later as Joshua was facing the end of his life he urged his people, “Be very firm, then, to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left . . .” (Joshua 23:6).

Centuries later it was said of King Josiah, “He did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2; see also Deuteronomy 5:32; 17:20; 28:14; Proverbs 4:27).

Guidelines for us

Israel had the Law of Moses to keep them on the path. We have the example of Jesus and His teachings in the New Testament. As long as we keep focused on Christ and His word we will move forward.

Just as highway stripes cannot protect a distracted driver, so God’s word keeps us on course only if we use it as directed..

Sad to say, many Christians today are not holding the course. They have veered off into immorality or indifference or false doctrine or other pitfalls along the way.

In driving, a moment’s inattention can be fatal. So also with our traveling the road to life.

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it . . . . how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1, 3).

Drift. Neglect. Totally avoidable–if we pay attention.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Check It Out!

Time and again the spell-check on my computer has alerted me to a misspelled word.

Imagine, though, a computer for religious writers and for preachers preparing their sermons, equipped with a doctrine-check and a heresy-detector. If the writer commits a theological error, the computer beeps a warning.

Sounds unbelievable? You’re right. There’s no such thing—as far as I know.

But what if there were? Can you imagine trying to program a doctrine-check applicable to everyone? Would there have to be a different program for each denomination? And since many churches have liberal and conservative factions, would there have to be a doctrine-check designed for each?

Is there a standard?

Who has the authority to say what is true doctrinally and what is false? Is there a right and wrong? Or is it all relative? Does each of us have the freedom to decide what to believe? Is there no standard?

Paul writes, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

Also Paul warns, “. . . there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:7-8).

If there is no doctrinal standard, then what Paul says here makes absolutely no sense.

How do we determine the truth?

Even Paul was subject to a doctrine-check. When he preached at the Berean synagogue, the Jews there “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Note the measuring stick the Bereans used to determine if what Paul taught was the truth.

Whenever we hear sermons from the pulpit or on TV or radio, and whenever we read articles such as this one, let’s do a doctrine-check, as the Bereans did: “to see whether these things were so.”

If what is taught matches up with God’s word, let’s believe it.

But if it doesn’t . . . .

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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I Was Going by the Wrong Standard

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“I wish they’d just leave it alone.” Have you ever heard anyone say this regarding Daylight Savings Time? It certainly can be a hassle, but do we really have any choice, unless we want to be out of sync with all those who do change their clocks twice a year?

“Spring forward, fall back”

Saturday night I dutifully set our clocks back one hour for the end of Daylight Savings.

But the trouble was, I did it a week too early. I was going by my pocket calendar that said it was time to change the clocks, so I did.

The trouble was, I was using a 2006 calendar to prevent having to buy a new one for the current year. Since both 2006 and 2017 began on a Sunday, I figured it would do just fine.

The trouble was, the date to fall back had been changed since then to the first Sunday of November. I had forgotten that.

As a result, I missed Bible class. A week early and an hour late.

So what lesson can we draw from my slip-up? Simply this, I was going by the wrong standard and didn’t realize it.

More wrong standards

Do people ever go by the wrong standard in religion? All the time.

Such erroneous standards include:

  1. Old Testament laws which are no longer in force, now that we are under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:4-18; Hebrews 8:6-13)
  2. Additional writings purported to be divinely inspired and accepted as equally authoritative with the Bible (Proverbs 30:6)
  3. Religious traditions which are of human, not divine, origin (Matthew 15:1-9)
  4. Pronouncements by religious leaders who claim to speak directly for God (Jeremiah 23:25-32)
  5. One’s own subjective feelings (Proverbs 3:5; 14:12; 28:26; Jeremiah 10:23; 17:9).

And that’s not all! With so many different standards, is it any wonder that division prevails?

But God’s word unites all who hold to the Scriptures as their only standard, neither adding to nor taking from.

This is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

Next spring I’ll be more careful.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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